“The overuse of that fund balance ultimately has been to benefit the taxpayers. There was no increase for a number of years; we also have one of the lowest tax rates in the state of New York.”
The 2006 budget was the tipping point to the fix they’re in now, Palmer said, as the new County Jail and Public Safety Building in Lewis opened.
“The jail bonds started in 2006, (then) 911-center employees, jail costs were added, and the levy was exactly the same (as 2005).”
To get the same levy, the board increased use of the fund balance by $3.7 million, to $7.4 million, a 100 percent increase, Palmer said.
“That represented 54 percent of the net budget for that year. It had to be pushed to about $7 million every year since then.”
His proposal is contingent on the completion of the sale of Horace Nye Nursing Home. The Centers for Specialty Care of the Bronx has agreed to buy it for $4 million.
“If the sale fell through, this plan doesn’t work,” Palmer said.
Supervisor Ronald Moore (R-North Hudson) said he supports the Palmer plan.
“If everything worked out, in three years, we could be at 3 percent,” he said. “I think we have to get this thing under control. I don’t think there’s any way we can get out of it.”
The problem with tax increases is that citizen salaries are not increasing, Preston said.
“A senior citizen came to me and said she is on the edge. She can’t pay any more.”
People can’t afford the increases proposed in the three-year plan, Preston said.
“We need to make some serious, serious cuts until such time as this economy turns around. We painted ourselves into this corner. It’s an awful mess. There is no easy way out.”
Even if they kept using the fund balance, it would run out, Supervisor William Ferebee (R-Keene) said.
“People don’t understand that.”
A tentative budget must be filed by Nov. 15, Palmer said, and there’s another session at 1 p.m. Monday, Nov. 19, to decide if they want the three-year plan or the layoffs.
Email Lohr McKinstry: email@example.com